The Myth of Balance

4 Sep

You might be wondering how my vegan adventure went and you might be wondering what has brought me to the surface. The answer to the former is that it was easier than I thought and the answer to the latter is that things are pretty bad and this is a cry for help.

I fell off the wagon a bit after the vegan thing. During it I was grand. I had an abundance of friends with diet restrictions and advice to share and an enthusiastic housemate who was so supportive that he actually got excited about Vegenaise. (Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.)

The biggest problem I faced with veganism began when I exchanged my penchant for junk food for a penchant with beer, which was one of my only remaining legal vices. Unfortunately after I finished the veganism, I decided to celebrate with my favorite non-veganism indulgences and didn’t drop the penchant for beer. From the time I set out to be vegan, did an bang-up job, wrapped it up, and returned to unvegan, I gained 15 pounds – a feat that genuinely surprises me.

I felt pretty bad about myself and tried to jump start things with a ride-my-bike-to-work-every-day challenge. It lasted zero days.

Ouch.

I started to revert to pre-blog Jackie. Do you remember pre-blog Jackie? She was a hermity old coot who got winded on the way to the bus stop, left every social engagement early and miserable, and who hated going clothes shopping because she stressed too much over all the unknowns associated with dressing room processes. We were pathetically fond of her for a time but we don’t miss her.

…Do we?

Today's illustration is brought to you by the Dave.

Today’s illustration is brought to you by the Dave.

At times like this it feels like I’m always just trying to get away from that default setting of being out of control. I’m not sure what balance is; when you strip away all the aphorisms we hang around our house and pinterest boards, it appears to mean being fit, seeing people you love often enough, being financially stable, knowing generally where you’re going, having something you’re looking forward to, getting plenty of sleep, and staying well educated and adaptable while somehow also finding time to do absolutely nothing.

You know: that’s all.

I thought the whole thing about balance was that there was a point when it happened – when the energy of a thing transcends its individual parts and achieves a central harmony. There is a certain ease and weightlessness in balance. Grace.

I’ve never once even felt close to this. Has anyone? Is there really someone who feels like there was a time when you were spending exactly enough time doing everything there was to do? Why does it even feel like this magical land of bull hockey should exist? What in the holy hellballs are we thinking?  

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by all these things that I become tired and a little scared and have to muster up the musteriness to keep on. Honestly, it’s just a lot easier and more natural for me to sit on the couch, keep to myself, and try to be occasionally clever. I can do that.That sounds doable and the longer I do it the easier it is to maintain.

This all started to feel familiar. Surely I’ve been here before.  I went hunting through my archives because I thought I remembered a time akin to this where I felt like I was slowly losing control of things in my life. Alas, I unearthed “The Great Filth Festering,” a post in two parts.

An excerpt from Jackie Blog Historical Histories:

“I’ve deteriorated again. I kind of have gotten into the habit of building a domicile of stench and humiliation. I guess that’s just how I operate lately. I’m busy and I’ve determined that one of the first things that can go is my sense of cleanliness and dignity.
 
I was swimming in my stench pool of an apartment this past weekend when I reached a new low in the land of Jackie: I invested in my first roll of fly tape. I almost felt bad about dooming the fools to a sticky, static death by goo but I was trying to take a nap between shifts the other day and they proceeded to swirl and flit and then procreate on me. 
 
You heard me correctly. I was attempting to nap on my couch and was frequently woken by the slight itch that accompanies two flies landing on your kneecap and fornicating. If you ever need a confirmation that your life is spiraling out of control and you need to get your act together, let flies bumping uglies on you in the festering filth of your stench cocoon seal the deal.”

I don’t know why it soothes me to read of similar moments of my failure. Perhaps it’s because my apartment is relatively clean right now so it highlights an area where I’m performing well at the moment. Perhaps it’s because I can say with certainty that I got past this particular scenario and it inspires hope. Perhaps it’s just because we don’t talk about it enough and it’s kind of liberating to just admit that I have a hard time keeping up with everything and having clean underwear at the same time.

I kind of wish we would all do it more.

Anyway, here I am. I would like to believe that a status update is the next step in propelling me back into the ring.

So humor me: in celebration of my exodus from the cocoon and in the name of the holy hellballs conjured earlier in this post, tell me a fond moment of failure. What’s your fly tape moment? Hook a sister up with some fellow failures.

You’re all swell. It’s nice to see you up here on the surface. Let me just clear some of the boxes of Cheez Its out of the way for us. 

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26 Responses to “The Myth of Balance”

  1. Jen The Nerd September 4, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    I hit that moment. Saw an ugly number on the scale, was doing less than half ass at my job, had to buy clean underwear and spoons the same day on my way to work because I didn’t have any clean of either.

    I crawled out of it. You can too. We’re here.

    • Jackie September 17, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

      clean underwear *and* spoons. damn. Thanks for sharing. We’re here indeed. Just started crawling but hoping to get it into a full run soon.

      Thanks for stopping by, by the way. Wondered if I’d be throwing up the smoke signal in big fat nothing since I’ve been gone so long. It’s good to have the cheers 🙂

  2. philosophermouseofthehedge September 4, 2014 at 8:59 am #

    Great line “hard time keeping up with everything and having clean underwear at the same time.” Everyone can identify with that.
    Realistic – and you might as well laugh at the odd concept that humans seem to have about deciding exactly how everything should be – and then killing ourselves to make that true.
    Getting out and doing some sort of exercise seems to drive that away…but how people manage to ride bikes to work and arrive all perky and put together beats me….must be a different climate…or I’m not working hard enough to achieve their perfection and competence ( giggles…veggies good, but easier if cookies and beer allowed on weekends….maybe on Wednesdays….and then…)
    Fun post!

    • Jackie September 17, 2014 at 9:47 pm #

      I’ve often thought about how simple it would be for me to get consistent exercise in if I would just bike to work. Not easy since I live on a hill (easy there, not easy back!), but I’d save money on the commute and get insta-sexy. That’s what the whole 30 day biking to work challenge was supposed to be but I never even started.

      To attempt again or to try something else just to try to get moving? Hmm…

      I like the cookies and beer on weekends! Better than cookies and beer every day which is surely what I was rockin there for a while 😉

      Thanks for coming back around after all this time. I appreciate the drop-in!

  3. Ice_Badger September 4, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    when I say “like” I mean, I like that you are back and I like that you are telling me things…I like knowing things…and yes I do realise you are not only telling the things to me but shhh!

    I don’t like that you have been having a hard time…that is no good 😦

    I wouldn’t worry too much about balance, I don’t actually believe we can achieve it, or at least not for any prolonged period of time. Occasionally we might by some chance achieve a day when we did all the things we should and all the things we wanted…but I am fairly sure it is a coincidence 🙂
    You are right, it is better to admit that most of the time we won’t be able to do *everything* I have a tendency to do a lot of some things and forget to put washing on and fill the dishwasher…I have bought a lot of new pants because i have no clean ones in my life (not so much now…but that is mainly because my husband is more organised than me…)

    I have a sneaky suspicion that you can actually do what every you want and whatever you put your mind to…after all you made me exercise every day for a whole year and train to be a personal trainer…if you can do that you can pretty much do anything 😀
    also…you went vegan…which is practically impossible so you can definitely do anything…

    • Jackie September 17, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

      I just LOVE that you came so far and got to be so awesome. I’m thrilled and amazed by you. Thanks for journaling your saga so we could all follow along. btw I’m used to buying new socks for lack of washing but pants… well. This could open up a whole new world for me 😉

      Thanks for the lovely words and support. I’ll figure something out here soon. I feel a dry erase board goals/rewards session and an excel spreadsheet coming on.

      • Ice_Badger September 18, 2014 at 2:08 am #

        Oooh excel spreadsheets and dry erase boards are excellent! They help most things!
        I also need to point out that by pants I meant underwear not trousers…
        😀

  4. FitsofWit September 4, 2014 at 9:15 am #

    About seven years ago I dropped out of college and moved in with my mom for three months. She lived in THE FUCKING WOODS in a cabin with her boyfriend. I had no other option at the time.
    Their diet consisted of meat, meat, and more meat… then a Klondike bar every evening for dessert. Seeing as how I didn’t eat meat I’d engorge in copious amounts of mac & cheese, dorritos, and of course Klondike bars. That was my diet that aided in pushing down my feelings of failure until one day I stepped on the scale and saw that I was the heaviest I’d ever been.
    You need to hit bottom before you can flourish. A butterfly only becomes a butterfly after its been an ugly ass caterpillar.
    You’re going places, kid. You can do this.

    • Jackie September 17, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

      I’ve been an ugly ass caterpillar. Are butterflies allowed to revert? Is that a thing? Or is it a cycle of cocoon -> caterpillar -> butterfly -> DEATHTERRIBLEFATUGLYDEATH -> cocoon -> repeat?

      At least I put up the signal and came out of hiding. The silence was suffocating. Thanks for sharing (I’d love to hear what your action plan was after all the macaroni and klondike bars, by the way). Thanks, too, for the encouragement 🙂

  5. pegoleg September 4, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    So glad you decided to surface, Jackie. I was worried about you.

    I know quite a bit about cycling between “be all you can be” and normal, which is being a total slouch. I’ve gained back most of the weight I lost, which is very depressing, both my kids moved halfway across the country, and life as a middle-aged woman does not have a lot of thrills.

    I think balance is a myth used to sell self-help books and seminars. You do what you can do, you have highs and lows, and you deal.

    Hang in there, kiddo. I believe in YOU!

    • Jackie September 17, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

      Thanks Peg 🙂 Sorry I haven’t dropped in on you in a while. :/ I’m disappointed to hear you gained back the weight you lost, as I was an avid follower of your journey, but it’s also kind of comforting to hear it just because I’m in the same boat. Maybe you’re right and balance isn’t a thing. Maybe just what we do this particular day is the only thing and “balance” is more like the sum of your every days.

      Why, oh WHY did I wait until chilling weather to poke my head out of the sand? 😉

      Thanks for being a cheerleader. Here’s to slowly revving back up and being a little more forgiving to myself.

  6. Julianne Avolio September 4, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

    I feel so relieved to read this. Not relieved that you feel as though you’re going through an ugly, difficult time, but relieved that another normal human also feels this way. And seems to feel this way multiple times over a period.

    I just had a major emotional beak when I realized that everything that could make me a better person (physically, health-wise, emotionally, professionally) I seem to drop after it starts to work. It’s almost as if the pressure to keep my standards high make it too scary to succeed, so it’s easier and more comfortable to fail.

    I was watching what I was eating and going to an early morning bootcamp that I loved… but all of a sudden it was just too easy NOT to do that. It’s easier to eat a bag of ravioli from the colander and sleep until minutes before the bus comes than it is to wake up, pack a yogurt, and challenge my body. Even though after these workouts I felt GREAT. Like I could conquer the freakin’ world. Sure, my legs hurt, but I had energy and confidence. Why isn’t the memory of that feeling enough to draw me back in?

    #scaredofhealth

    • Jackie September 17, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

      it IS much easier to eat a bag of raviolo. UGH the bus.

      So, this is… maybe not the best info share ever, but I’ve started to try to use food as a motivator. I know that’s supposed to be a no-no, but I promise myself eggs and toast if I get out of bed early enough (no missed bus!) and back when I wasn’t being such a blog, I would allow myself a recovery drink of a single portion of chocolate milk if I worked out hard enough. So far the eggs and toast thing is a winner for getting up on time. So maybe now it’s time to get some chocolate milk.

      Maybe we should be workout buddies? I’ve always hated that but maybe we could hate it together? I’m thinking about a yoga challenge… just.. just saying.

  7. Wazeau September 4, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

    How about losing 120 pounds, getting down to 120 pounds (yea, I weighted 240 at 5’1″) and swearing you will never ever let yourself go like that again, then five years go by and you wake up and suddenly the scale says 130 because you’ve been sitting on the couch in the evening watching TV and eating cheese again… copious amounts of cheese… And the odd part is, life is good, I have no reason for it, I’m not depressed or lonelier (than normal lonely) in fact I’m in the same city my son and grandchildren live in after 8 years being across the country from him. Maybe sometimes when things are going good one self-sabotages just to feel normal (because feeling good is so abnormal for me). Anyways, you aren’t alone. We’ve gone from gross to good before, we can do it again.

    • Jackie September 17, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

      Gross to good. That should be the whole title of my blog. Gross to Good: the Battle. 😉 Thanks for sharing.

      And man – cheese. CHEESE!

  8. Nancy Gordon September 4, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    Jackie?? I can tell you that I had some YEARS as a failure in many ways, but I was too unaware to know it. Then I had the many years of single mom and too many jobs, mowing the grass at midnight because there was no other time and yoy yoy YOY I didn’t know how I was going to make stuff be ok. I had those years of weighing over 200 lbs, I had those years of being married to an alcoholic, etc etc. however, I was still me and intact and capable, and faithful, so here I am the person you know.

    Strong, beautiful, smart, and faithful pays off. And I am describing you, my dear.

    Winston Churchill?? Success is not permanent, failure is not fatal. Press on. Here is what I say: put in each day, work, art, and family. And always express gratitude.

    You are a perfect person. I admire you and rely on you.

    My best to you and your sweet Dave. Nancy

    Nancy Gordon Galluzzo QM Productions, Inc. http://www.QMproductionsinc.com

    >

    • Jackie September 17, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

      mowing the grass at midnight is ridiculous, Nancy! How chaotic that must have been! Thank you for the awesome and inspiring words. I’m trying to turn the engine back on 🙂

  9. knotrune September 5, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    I tried to balance my life; I fell off.
    I’ve got the sleeping and the doing nothing part under control. The rest? Not so much.

    • Jackie September 17, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

      hahaha Yes. thank you. solidarity.

  10. Jules September 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    Fly tape moment? How about my former addiction to world of warcraft.

    Daily routine:
    -wake up at 11
    -cook ramen
    -play game until 3am
    -sleep
    -repeat

    That was a long long long time ago, but I still remember like it was yesterday. It’s good to keep these things in mind. Guides you on what NOT to do.

    • Jackie September 17, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

      Right. Riiiiight. The good news is that no matter what, I’m not playing WoW. Perspective 😉

  11. Katherine Gordy Levine September 5, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    Glad to see you again. A little know fact about trying to change. In the stage of proving we can, our motivation is highest. Once we have proved ourselves its back to the grind. Why balance? Why not living well unbalanced at time, balanced at other times and hoping it all balanced out.

    • Jackie September 17, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

      In the stage of proving we can, our motivation is highest. Well said. And very true. I was building on success for so long and then just sort of tapered off and now I have to talk myself back into it and start the engine. The stories we tell ourselves are so powerful.

  12. kitchenmudge September 19, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

    Good to see you back, Jackie. You’ve been a magnificent, motivated beast in the past, and I’m sure you will be that again. Refuse to worry about yourself. There’s always that job doing QC at the mattress factory.

  13. lorifrantzkoenig September 24, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    Oh how I understand!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  14. FitsofWit October 9, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    http://fitsofwit.com/2014/10/09/cheers-to-my-peers-one-lovely-blog-award/
    I nominated you because your space here is quite lovely. I love your blogs. Funny girls are the best girls.

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